Published on February 20, 2013 by Casey
The Morris Industrial School for Indians (1887–1909) was an Native American boarding school in Morris, Minnesota. The school was founded and run by Roman Catholic nuns of the Sisters of Mercy order from 1887 until 1896. After that, the school was run by the Office of Indian Affairs of the United States Federal Government from 1898 until 1909.
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When the government took over operation of the school in 1898, they instituted a “progressive education,” including music programs, a literary society, and a baseball team. In 1910, the school was transferred to the state and adapted for use as a boarding school for the University of Minnesota; it was named the University of Minnesota Morris in 1960.
The Morris Industrial School for Indians was founded in 1887 by a group of nuns from the Sisters of Mercy order under the leadership of Mary Joseph Lynch. Lynch had served with Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War before starting industrial schools for youth in the United States. The parish priest of Morris, Minnesota invited the order led by Lynch to start a parochial school for girls in the town. The order wanted to focus on education for Native Americans and in 1886, they received a contract by the U.S. to staff a school to those ends. They named the new school the Sacred Heart Indian Mission and built the first buildings themselves.
Recruiting students from the Indian reservations was difficult for Lynch until she developed connections with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, which had a high percentage of members converted to Catholicism. The number of students, instructors, and buildings slowly increased for the first few years of the school. By 1895, the staff size was 25 (24 nuns and 1 male supervisor) and the enrollment was 103 students (the largest Indian boarding school in Minnesota). Lynch maintained traditional practices and curriculum of a largely parochial education; however, unlike some other Catholic boarding schools, she did not allow corporal punishment.